A beautiful portrait entitled "The Girl You Left Behind" connects two engaging love stories in a historical novel full of moral ambiguities. The book...moreA beautiful portrait entitled "The Girl You Left Behind" connects two engaging love stories in a historical novel full of moral ambiguities. The book opens in 1916 in a German-occupied French village. The villagers are hungry and cold, and they are not sure which of their neighbors are trustworthy. Sophie Lefevre and her sister are told to cook dinner for German soldiers in their hotel's restaurant every evening. Sophie's husband, an artist who is now a soldier in the French army, had painted her portrait which hangs in the hotel. The German Kommandant appreciates art, and he is fascinated by the painting of Sophie--and by Sophie herself. When Sophie receives a letter that her husband was captured and sent to a German labor camp, she wonders if she can risk asking the Kommandant to help her.
The second part of the book occurs 90 years later in London where Liv Halston is grieving the death of her husband. David Halston had bought the painting for Liv when they were on their honeymoon. Liv is dating Paul, an art-thief investigator who tracks down art looted during the world wars. In an unlikely coincidence, Paul recognizes her painting as one of the treasures that he is trying to recover. Liv does not want to give up the painting since it is a connection to her beloved David. As the case goes to trial, and discoveries are made about the history of the painting, Sophie's and Liv's stories are connected. Moral gray areas are shown as the legal case progresses.
The book held my interest throughout both Sophie's and Liv's stories, although the World War I story was more emotionally intense. The author has created strong, interesting characters that have to make tough, questionable decisions. After reading two of Jojo Moyes' books, I look forward to picking up another soon.(less)
I loved this wonderfully crafted mystery by Agatha Christie. Ten people were invited to an isolated island home for the week. The host never shows, bu...moreI loved this wonderfully crafted mystery by Agatha Christie. Ten people were invited to an isolated island home for the week. The host never shows, but a recording accuses each guest of causing someone's death in the past. One by one, the guests are killed. With no boat and a raging sea surrounding the island, there is no means to escape. Their terror increases as they realize that one of them must be the murderer. Who is taking justice into their own hands? This is a great classic mystery with a surprise ending.(less)
Violets were popular flowers in the late 1800s, and the two older Fletcher brothers owned a violet farm in the Hudson Valley. Their younger brother, F...moreViolets were popular flowers in the late 1800s, and the two older Fletcher brothers owned a violet farm in the Hudson Valley. Their younger brother, Frank Fletcher, worked as a farmhand for them since he lost his inheritance in some youthful wrongdoing. In addition to working at the violet farm and doing household chores, Frank's wife, Ida, has been wet nursing to make extra money. Desperate for cash to pay back his brothers, Frank took their daughter Alice to New York City to work. Alice has not been answering her mother's letters. What happened to Alice and what is Frank hiding?
The mother-daughter relationship between Ida and Alice is an important part of the story. The role of women at the turn of the century when women had limited rights and opportunities is also explored in the book. After the first few chapters introduce the characters and the situation, the book picks up its pace into an engaging read. The author has done extensive historical research and weaves historical details into the storyline. The main heartbreaking story was framed by an interview of Alice in her later, happier years when she recognizes Ida's strength. This gives closure to the difficulties in their mother-daughter relationship. "A Violet Season" is highly recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction.(less)
It's a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, starting as she sets out in the morning to buy flowers for a party, and ending as her par...more3.5 stars
It's a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, starting as she sets out in the morning to buy flowers for a party, and ending as her party guests are leaving that night. The book is written in a stream of consciousness so the reader learns about the characters' feelings about the present, past, and future, moment by moment. Throughout the book, Big Ben and other London clocks sound the hours. Clarissa reads Shakespeare's words from "Cymbeline" about death in a book in a shop window early in the book, foreshadowing things to come.
The book was written after the devastation of World War I. Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran suffering from PTSD, sees hallucinations of a good friend who died in the war. One of Septimus' doctors will be attending the party later. Woolf and her husband published Freud's works, and Woolf had been treated unsuccessfully for bipolar disorder and depression. She shows that the medical and psychiatric doctors of the time were inept and unfeeling to people with mental illness.
Clarissa, a charming high society hostess, invites about twenty people to her party. We learn about her youth, her past loves, and her marriage as she shops in the morning. Was she happy in her marriage to Richard, or should she have married Peter who still loves her? We also see England's social structure through the eyes of many characters. There is a contrast between Clarissa's life, and the lives of working women.
I appreciated Woolf's writing which was often very beautiful, and her thoughts about the Great War, mental illness, and society. Her stream of consciousness writing gave impressions of past, present, and future which melded into a complete idea. I admire Woolf for trying a new style of writing, and might enjoy it in a short story of a few pages. But I found it difficult to concentrate on her stream of consciousness writing for a whole novel. There are other styles of writing that I prefer reading.(less)
The Space Between Us is a novel about the relationship between two Indian women, the upper-middle class Serabai, and her lower class servant, Bhima. T...moreThe Space Between Us is a novel about the relationship between two Indian women, the upper-middle class Serabai, and her lower class servant, Bhima. The lives of these two likable women have parallel experiences that connect them, but there is always that "space between them" due to class differences. Poverty, education, family, and gender roles are also explored in the story. In India's patriarchal society men hold the power, and abuse of women of all classes is often overlooked.
The author also wove in descriptions of Bombay (Mumbai)--the slum where Bhima and her granddaughter resided, Sera's apartment, the markets, the beach, the traffic, the food. Umrigar based the book upon her experiences growing up in Mumbai. There was a real domestic servant named Bhima who worked for her family. She served as a model for the hard-working, stoic character in the book. (less)
The novella "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" is a Southern Gothic work with eccentric, lonely characters in a rundown Georgia town. Mi...moreNote: Spoilers Ahead
The novella "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" is a Southern Gothic work with eccentric, lonely characters in a rundown Georgia town. Miss Amelia Evans is a six foot two inch rugged woman. She's the owner of a general store, and does a bit of healing with herbs on the side to help the townspeople. They gossip about her ten day marriage to Marvin Macy which ended after she refused his sexual advances. Marvin left town for a life of crime, and landed in the penitentiary.
A hunchback dwarf, Lymon Willis, comes to the store professing to be Miss Amelia's cousin. Miss Amelia takes him in, and they turn the store into a bright cafe where the townspeople socialize. Although Lymon seems to be a parasite, Miss Amelia loves him and seems happy living with him. When Marvin gets out of jail, Lymon is fascinated by him and ignores Miss Amelia. A triangular love relationship is formed where the beloved does not love the person who loves them.
Carson McCullers had a troubled marriage with her spouse who had a male lover. She would certainly understand the dynamics of a triangular relationship, and the devastation that could result. There are a wonderful pages in the book, too long to quote here, about the relationship between the beloved and the loved.
The book also contained six short stories about love:
"Wunderkind" is about a promising young pianist who loses her emotional feel for the music. (McCullers had taken piano lessons for years before giving it up when her piano teacher moved when her husband had a job relocation.)
"The Jockey" focuses on the emotions felt by an older jockey when he sees the indifference of a group of businessmen to the news that his friend, a younger jockey, has a permanent injury. The businessmen are only concerned about money and winning, not personal tragedy.
"Madame Zelensky and the King of Poland" is about a musician who tells exaggerated stories. Her real life has no time for anything but the music she loves, so she invents a personal life.
"The Sojourner" tells about a man who sees his ex-wife and her new happy family. He realizes he needs a life with deeper meaning.
"A Domestic Dilemma" involves a husband coming home from work to find his wife drunk again, and the children unattended. How much will his young, beloved children remember about her behavior, and can their marriage last? McCullers writes about the "immense complexity of love" in this story.
"A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud" shows a drunk man telling a paperboy about the science of love. After losing the love of a woman, he decided to start loving again on a small scale, loving a tree, a rock, a cloud. A sad story.(less)